Atlanta rapper 6lack: ‘Music can never smile at me the style my daughter does’
Once violated and hungry, the rising star has now been nominated for two Grammys. He discusses reaching rock bottom, narrowly avoiding demise and becoming a father
6lack, pronounced “black”, is perhaps having a Wireless festival comedown. When we satisfy in July, the 26 -year-old is amicable but tired, introspective and stone-faced, the ecstasy of crooning his heart-bleeding combination of trap and soul to thousands in Finsbury Park having petered out.” I’m missing out on household day, I’m putting my body through extremes ,” he says.” When the things that you fantasise about become a reality, you realise this is still a job .”
For the rapper-cum-singer otherwise known as Ricardo Valdez Valentine, that job is to make confessionals: deep dives into embittered relationships and his quest to discovery a better life through music. It’s the American Dream made a mid-2 0s reality, wrap in sombre production then sent into the world with low-toned vocals.
He was raised in Zone 6, the eastern district of Atlanta, a breeding ground for flamboyant rappers such as Gucci Mane. But Ricardo was a quiet child, frightened straight by witnessing a few things he says he shouldn’t have: friends sitting in prison or lying in graveyards. Instead he dove into Sade, The-Dream, Erykah Badu and Michael Jackson. Then, in his late teens, with little fund and no place to remain, he moved to Miami with some friends to hunt down a record deal.
” We got signed with no management , no lawyers ,” he says.” There’s Ferraris outside, there’s Bugattis, the studio is beautiful- we were just like:’ Why not ?’ You learn afterward .” The label demanded hit records with pop formats but 6lack craved artistic freedom. So they sat in stalemate.” It ran from a situation that seemed like the global opportunity to,’ You might have just fucked yourself over ‘. My rock bottom was somewhere in South Florida. I hadn’t eaten for a while, I was super hungry. I recollect being by a trash can and seeing someone throw food away. I thought about going over there, opening it up and eating it. When I had that think, I was like:’ This better be worth it bro .'” It was- scene legends J Cole and Future appear on second album East Atlanta Love Letter, which has just been released, while he earned two Grammy nominations for his 2016 debut album Free 6lack and single Prblms.
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